Walking In a Winter Wonderland

Magic has arrived in Edmonton, where Hawrelak Park has been transformed into a scene straight out of Disney’s Frozen. Our very own ice castle has appeared, bringing even the most avid winter hibernators out into the wild. Icicles form an enchanting archway as you step into the castle, welcomed by the instrumental sounds of the Frozen theme song. People eagerly wait for their chance at sliding down the ice slide or to take a seat on the ice throne while the rest of us wander in and out of the paths, tall walls of ice on either side.

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Everywhere you look is another mind blowing display of artistry – hundreds upon hundreds of hand-crafted icicles put together to form the entire castle.

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Don’t forget to dress warm – it is an ice castle after all. Luckily, there’s a little spot for you to warm up your hands.

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… before exploring some more!

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I am SO happy that I turned around after walking out of the castle or else I might have missed this heart that had been carved into the ice.

If you’re in the area or ever have an opportunity to visit an ice castle, I highly recommend it! In the daytime, the ice, snow and winter sky creates a white on white on white appearance that is beautiful. But when darkness hits, the ice castle is flooded in beautiful lights – so a visit in the evening would be just as magical.

 

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‘Tis the Season!

There might not be snow on the ground yet but Canadians are already beginning to embrace the spirit of the Winter season. Churchill Square kicked off the beginning of a number of winter and Christmas-themed events that will be popping up all around the city for the next five months with their annual Holiday Light Up.

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In the hours leading to the light up the square was busy with performances by special guests, food vendors, stilt walkers, clowns and mascots but everything slowed down as the countdown for the light up began.

Bundled up in scarves, toques and mittens, hundreds of people gathered around around to watch the Mayor light up the tree as the sun set and darkness engulfed the square. At 74-ft. tall and adorned with 14 thousand LED lights and decorations, it was a spectacular moment that left everyone in awe.

With cheers and claps from the crowd, the event was topped off with a beautiful fireworks display that illuminated the sky.

If you missed the action, don’t worry! Churchill Square will be lit up (minus the fireworks) for rest of the season. Head out when the sun has gone down, bundle up in your coziest winter attire and take a stroll through the square to get a first-hand view of the beautiful lights on display.

Lazy Summer Afternoons

With being caught in between school years with not much cash to spare, it’s been a mission this summer to do a few things around my own city that I might not take the time to do otherwise. With a trusty best friend by my side, we decided to take a day or two to hit up some of the parks in our city.

First up was Whitemud Ravine, a place where you can go to get the feel of being surrounded by nature but still be in the middle of a city. The ravine has excellent walking and biking trails that are accessible any time of year.

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Park benches are scattered throughout the ravine where you can rest and take in a pretty view.

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And we happened to come across a friend in our wandering who was keen to eat grass from my hands.

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A blazing hot day brought about our next set of urban park adventures. Armed with all the necessities required for an afternoon of suntanning, we made our way to Hermitage Park. Located in the north of the city, Hermitage has paved paths that eventually connect to Rundle Park.

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Here, you can rent out a canoe and take a paddle on the large pond. If fishing is your thing, family fishing is allowed in the pond and you can have some fun trying to catch the rainbow trout that are kept in there. For those of us with dogs, there’s an off-leash dog area where your furry friend is free to run, jump and play to their hearts content. It’s also a great place to get a group of people together for a fire and a cook-up of food on one of the barbecues scattered around the park.

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As we had come fully prepared to do nothing more than take a walk around the park and scope out the best place to lay around for the day, we finally found ourselves with a meadow entirely for ourselves. Surrounded by trees, we had all the privacy we could hope for and a view of the pond ahead. Thoroughly pleased with our find, we spread out all that was needed for a lazy afternoon in the park and welcomed the sun with open arms.

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The Real Devonian Gardens

This might sound like a repeat post, like you’ve read the name Devonian Gardens somewhere around here before. And you did, right here. But there are two Devonian Gardens in Alberta, apparently. One nestled on the top floor of a shopping mall (which is a great escape from the winter blues) and one that is located just outside of Devon, AB that greatly exceeds the size of the one I’ve previously talked about. The Devonian Botanical Gardens have been around since 1959 and cover a whopping 240 acres. Whether you prefer flowers or plants, a space that is polished and manicured or one that is left a little more wild, you’ll have a chance to pass through it all in an afternoon here.

One of the most popular areas of the garden is the very well kept Japanese Garden, with its rushing water, vast expanses of green lawn and still ponds. Walking through it makes me want to jump into a yoga sequence or sit on the edge of a rock and meditate.

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But don’t forget to take a stroll through the butterfly house on your way there. Kept hot and humid, stepping into the butterfly house feels like you’re walking into the tropics. Butterflies of all sizes and colors float through the air, flitting from one flower to the next and resting on giant leaves. This is definitely one of my favorite parts of the gardens, not only to imagine myself being in the tropics but also because if you have the patience to stand very still, very quiet, for a fair amount of time, you might just have a butterfly land on you!

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As we were with my great grandma, who can’t walk quite the distance she used to, we opted to try out the guided tour of the gardens. Led by a chipper girl who clearly loved her job, we hopped on board the train of golf carts and began a journey through the history of a place that is over half a century old. While I prefer walking through a place so I can get a little snap happy, the guided tour was extremely educational and quite a good idea if you like knowing what you’re looking at as opposed to simply admiring the beauty.

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Calla Water

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If you are taking a stroll through the property, there’s even an area that is built to satisfy more than human sight. Guests are encouraged to touch and even taste the herbs and plants that grow in these areas!

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The gardens make for a peaceful afternoon of wandering about, admiring pretty things, taking children frog catching. You can visit on a Thursday evening for a designated date night with a special someone or group of friends and can even use it for elaborate events such as large or small weddings.

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Sunday Snapshot: Alberta Prairies

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Today’s snapshot features a photo from home, taken on a country road just outside of Edmonton. The more I travel the more I find that I appreciate where I come from. Nothing beats the Alberta prairies, yellow fields as far as you can see and wide open blue sky. Driving down those back roads always calms the mind and gives you a beautiful view like this one. You might even find yourself slamming on the breaks to jump out of your car and lay down on the road to snap a photo (watch for cars!) ;)